Friday, July 22, 2016

How Was Your Day?

...and bring me my big piece of chicken!!!-Chris Rock

Are you easily offended? Then Chris Rock is probably not for you. His routines are laced with profanities and sexual references. And lots of uncomfortable truths.

This morning I was reminded of his "Bring the Pain" HBO special back in the 90's (amazing, isn't it, the things which trigger memories?).

Speaking of relationships (which he always got around to doing), he gave two important pieces of advice to guys. First was the importance of hammering on your kids to "tell your mama!" Moms need to be appreciated and kids as well as dads need to express that appreciation constantly, cause Mom's work is constant and ongoing. So tell her, kids, how much you recognize and appreciate the countless small (and not so small) things that make your life good.

Men, says Chris, don't forget to ask this question: "How was your day?" And then listen to the answer. You may reply briefly at the end ("I tole you dat bitch crazy!" if she works outside the home), but remember that you are not being called on to fix anything (unless you are specifically called on to fix something) but to express genuine empathy and understanding.

If you are easily offended then perhaps you should skip the rest of this.

One of the signs of being easily offended is to take offense when an inquiry is made about the events of your day.

This reaction for example: "Yeah, right, like you really care!"

If you believe this, what are you doing WITH this man?

Guys have days too, Chris pointed out. Like maybe your guy works for a real scheisskopf of a boss at a job he really hates. So you can have lights, gas and water.

Our needs at the end of a long day, he continued, are simpler: to sit quietly and briefly to unwind, and that BIG piece of chicken.

Me? I think God made husbands and wives to be a comfort and joy one another. To share simple pleasures. To laugh at life's craziness or our own foolishness.

As if life's hardest lesson might be to not take oneself too seriously, and to love one another as we have been loved.

And to remember; we are only "unworthy servants," having merely done our duty.

And how was YOUR day?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Your Island of Fun in a Sea of Negativity

He coulda had fun sometime.-Karl Childers

I have heard it said that sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying.

Not that there's anything wrong with crying. The Bible tells us that there's a time to weep.

And, hey, even self-inflicted wounds hurt!

Nonetheless, I have come to the conclusion (don't stop me if you've heard this, just nod and laugh) that all the world is divided into two parts: the first where life is lived as a soap opera, and the place where life is approached like a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

Where I spend my days depends largely on how seriously I take me.

One of my favorite quotes is in the margin of this blog: "I am just a man, like any other."

In our Sunday morning Sunday School discussion this past Sunday, the word "entitlement" was used. It is the sickness of our age, I believe, and its most visible symptom is any thought or sentence that begins with "I deserve."

Well we all know what we REALLY deserve, right? I've also heard it said that if God never did a single thing for us besides saving our souls, we should rejoice.

I agree. But I know that he pours out such daily blessings that we can't count them. There's this, for example:

So how is God glorified in my trouble, my trials, my pain?

I find myself asking that a lot. It can be quite obvious sometimes. Other times it's one of those questions you add to the list of things you'll ask Him when you see Him face-to-face.

If you're not scared speechless at His holiness, that is (Isaiah's reaction).

Or maybe simply overcome with joyous laughter.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Morning by morning new mercies I see. -Thomas Chisholm, from the hymn inspired by Lamentations 3:22-23

My heart has been heavy within me as I have prepared for the study of the 28th chapter of C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters.

The arrogance and presumption of the demons that, given time, they might be able to "unravel the soul" of any of God's elect from heaven is galling.

But I am saddened beyond my ability to express sadness to know that some brothers and sisters in Christ are so foolish (and ungrateful) as to give credence to this outrageous lie from the pit of hell.

That our God, having saved us, is unable to preserve us in His salvation from the attacks of Satan.

That He might lose us, that we might be pried from His grasp.

That the devil, a mere creature, might thwart the will of his Creator
and defeat His holy purpose.

What then are we to make of Jesus' statement that He would lose none whom the Father had given Him (John 6:39)?

We have many promises of God's faithfulness in His Word. More than I could list here. No doubt, some of them come to your mind as you read this. Familiar verses, so precious and full of comfort.

And we have the testimony of our hearts as we recall with gratitude the mercies daily rendered unto us by our Heavenly Father's hand.

In this world, we may fall into sin, repent, and be forgiven.

But could we ever doubt God's preserving and sustaining love?

Be it not so, O LORD!

Friday, April 22, 2016

I Shall Not Want

The LORD is my shepherd....-Psalm 23:1a

Half empty or half full?

It's a daily temptation, is it not?

Yes, you say, but think of the blessings; salvation in the here and now, the promise of an eternal dwelling place....


But you know where I most often find comfort and deliverance from temptation?

It is in the countless small things.

Springtime's warm sun and light breeze.

Laughter and relaxation in the company of beloved Christian friends.

Work, believe it or not. Satisfaction in a job well done. The opportunity to witness (oh so subtly, at times). Interacting with image-bearers of God, however flawed we may be.

I have heard it said that God is in the details. I believe it.

To see His hand moving in my life and the lives of others, how could I complain of lack?

Goodness and mercy, the psalmist calls it.

Amen and thank you, Lord.

Friday, April 8, 2016


And we both know what memories can bring, they bring diamonds and rust. -Joan Baez

I heard a man speak of a woman he had known and loved in his long-ago youth. It was a strange thing, he said, that he could not see her face in his mind's eye.

There was poignancy in this matter-of-fact statement and the bare traces of pain in his stoic expression. Had he wept aloud, I would not have been as moved by the moment.

 No loss without love.

Memories. Do they bring both hurting and healing? The corrosive fraying of regret and loss upon the strings of the heart? But the sparkle, the glow, ---- of beauty revisited?

Have you noticed that our memories are crystallized in the music that we love? A turn of phrase within the lyrics, the upward lift of the melody. These freeze the moment in time and store it in our hearts.

Sandy and I have labored hard, this past year, to express memories and emotions in a musical context. It has been a healing process, a re-bonding of sorts.

We look forward to sharing the music. Our fondest hope is that it might help someone process their own memories. We believe (perhaps you do, also) that the sharing of an experience enhances it somehow; intensifies it, renders it less painful, makes it more precious.

It's like taking a picture and setting it to music.

You must remember this....

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Burning of Red Paul

Bleeder valve - Device on a liquid propane tank which releases gas vapor, allowing the tank to be filled.

He was called "Red Paul" because his hair was a fiery orange-red. Our friend Izear once said that if he would wear a white cap, he would look like a match.

It was a hot late August in the delta. A hot and dusty day in which we had been spraying weeds and disking the turnrows in preparation for the coming harvest.

The sun was several hours from setting as we parked the tractors under the large elm tree next to the butane (LP) tank.

Dad had pulled the pickup next to the 1000 gallon tank and was attaching the filler hose to the truck's fuel tank.

Vapor hissed from the bleeder valve. You could see the wrinkles in the air as the gas escaped toward the tailgate of the pickup.

The same tailgate to which Red Paul ambled up, arms resting on it, one foot propped upon the bumper.

Fumbling in his shirt pocket, he produced a pack of Camel non-filters, shook one out, and hung it on his lower lip.

Dad had turned away into the truck's cab. I had opened the door on the passenger's side, not noticing when Paul flicked his Bic lighter.


A streak of flame enveloped Red Paul and he jumped/fell several feet backward and to the ground, dropping the lighter. Fire extinguished.

Dad rushed to Red Paul, who sat dazed in the dirt. I grabbed a tow sack and started beating out the fire which had flared up in the bed of the truck among the grease and empty oil cans.

Red Paul, apparently not much the worse for wear, had become Pink Paul.

We loaded him into the truck and sped toward Helena Hospital, not more than six or eight miles away, stopping as we went to beat out the flames that were fanned into life in the truck bed as we sped along.

 The folks in the emergency room diagnosed first degree burns, gave the victim some salve for the more painful spots, and told him that his skin would peel and that his eyebrows would grow back.

I can say, without malice but simply stating fact, that Red Paul was not a pretty man to begin with. Having a pinkish, peeling face and no eyebrows did not improve this.

Warning: smoking cigarettes can be hazardous to your health.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

When the Willows Bloom

There were two trees in the front yard when we moved into this house thirteen years ago. It would not be an exaggeration to say that they both looked like they belonged in some haunted forest.

The one next to the driveway appeared stunted, with gnarled, twisted branches, and every summer would produce bitter-tasting, inedible berries which resembled tiny, marble-sized persimmons.

Which, when they fell, made an ugly, smeared. red-yellow mess on the driveway.

The other tree grew in front of the front bedroom window. It too was unattractive and prone to dropping sizable branches on the lawn for me to clean up. It bore apples, small green apples the taste of which tended more toward a mouthful of dirt than any sort of apple.

At one point, a whole section of the tree collapsed across the lawn and into the street. The remainder leaned threateningly toward the house.

So when Gary (our landlord) came to cut down the apple tree and asked if we would like the other tree gone as well, my immediate reply was, "Yes, please."

The two willow saplings which took their place were an immediate source of joy to Joycie and me, but especially to her.

They looked rather forlorn that first winter, desolate limbs drooping leafless to the ground, or whipping about in the bitter wind.

But they were the first trees on this block to bud and bloom, and every spring, she would always say, "Look, aren't our two trees beautiful?"

I thought of that as I looked out the window from the kitchen table and saw the green appearing on the long slender branches.

I thought of the joy that something as simple as two willow trees in bloom can bring to a grateful heart.

Spring is here again.